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Friday, January 16th, 2015
I spent one year working for the Mickey Mouse in Walt Disney World. It was hands down the most magical year of my life, filled with fun, learning, and a boatload of funny stories.
While I learned important lessons about teamwork and the power of positivity, I also learned a thing or two about parenting. By interacting with families of different backgrounds, sizes, and child-rearing styles, it became clear that all parents had alter egos on vacation. It was obvious when mom or dad were in full vacation parent mode, because they were savvy and quick on their feet when it came to handling children in a high stress (or high excitement) situation.
Here are some examples of how parents inspired me and had me taking notes on their impressive theme park parenting.
- Parents will stop at nothing to make sure that their kids are happy, even if that means sitting through It’s A Small World for an entire afternoon. While visiting Magic Kingdom on a day off, I watched a father re-enter the line for It’s A Small World four times because his daughter, “wanted to see the babies sing again.” My heart went out to him, and I respected the fact that he loved his daughter so much, enough that he would voluntarily ride in the tiny boat with her over and over again.
- Stroller folding is an art form that is extremely underappreciated. This I learned firsthand. Being a stroller parker just comes with the job when you work a Disney attraction. Fellow cast members and I would bribe each other to take our stroller shifts, because it was a grueling task. Not every stroller folds the same way, and some have crazy hard child safety locks that require patience and an owner’s manual to unlock. I respect the parents who lug these contraptions around with them all day long!
- Parents are experts when it comes to coping with wait times. I always commended those parents who stood on the two-hour meet-and-greet lines for characters with their kids. I felt sorry for these parents, until I looked closer. Their diaper bags were packed with snacks, coloring books, tablets loaded with movies, and anything else to entertain the little ones. It was like watching that scene from Mary Poppins where Mary opens up her duffel bag and pulls out a giant lamp and a potted plant, only with jumbo-sized bags of Cheerios and iPads instead.
- There is nothing quite like experiencing Disney through the eyes of a child. It is the reason why families keep coming back to Disney, and why I saw so many smiling parents crying happy tears when their kids saw Mickey for the first time or finally became big enough to ride the big-kid rides. In a child’s eyes, every character and attraction is real and there isn’t anything that magic can’t do. It was awe-inspiring and completely enlightening, talking to kids every day about Walt Disney World and all of the things they saw. I cried at least once a day, listening to the kids tell me about how the Make-A-Wish Foundation sent them to Disney to fulfill their dream of meeting Mickey Mouse or how they couldn’t wait to meet Cinderella and give her handwritten letters or colored pictures because she was their hero. It was an honor and it’s a much missed privilege to spend my days making magic for kids from around the world.
Image: Lake Buena Vista, FL via Shutterstock
Brooke Schuldt is an intern at Parents and the mother of a cactus named Timmy. She has a different hair bow for every day of the week. Follow her on Twitter.
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Friday, November 7th, 2014
Joe DeProspero has two sons and a wife, and he is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is also writing a parenting humor book. He posts twice monthly and his previous posts can be found here. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
My friends who don’t have children relentlessly hurl sympathy at me like Angry Birds whenever the film is brought up.
“Ugh, I have no idea how you tolerate that stuff. I’d rather have my pockets stuffed with filets, be tethered and hung over a pack of hungry wolves.”
My friends can be pretty dramatic. But the crux of their argument holds water. They hate the idea of having to watch a movie written for children 200 times in a month. In fairness, who would want to do such a thing? But many of us do it to please our kids, despite how unnerving it can be to grow so familiar with a movie you can’t stand. It’s like knowing all the lyrics to a Ke$ha song. You know it’s nothing to be proud of, but it’s infected your psyche, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
With that said, I am going to admit something I probably shouldn’t…but I love “Frozen!” I love the songs, I love that cute little snowman Olaf, and I love that it exists in a “happily ever after” world when there is so much about the real world to bring us down. And my wife and two young sons love it even more. However, I’m crying foul on a handful of scenes that just make no sense to me at all. I realize it’s a movie. But bear with me as I go over some off-putting aspects of “Frozen” that I simply cannot ignore any longer. If you’re a parent of young kids who miraculously has avoided the film so far, this post will include plenty of spoilers. You’ve been warned.
- Why doesn’t Elsa just TELL Anna that she has special powers that could kill her?
This is easily the part of the film I have the biggest problem with. Elsa nearly whacked Anna when they were children, so Grand Pappy, the magical troll, removes the ice from her head and also conveniently removes all memories of her sister Elsa’s magic. So, their parents’ solution is to keep Elsa locked in a room for years, away from anyone she might accidentally murder. Seems about right. Except for the fact that they could have easily told Anna, “Listen, honey, Elsa has this problem where she might inadvertently freeze your face off if you touch her.” Seems like a normal conversation between daughter and parent to me.
- Why is Hans suddenly a sociopath?
He’s the perfect gentleman for 75 minutes, then all of a sudden…BOOM. He’s Christian Bale in American Psycho. I get it. They were trying to make him as detestable as possible, so viewers would know who the bad guy was. But if this movie was trying to move away from traditional fairy tale norms, they could have just had Anna tell Hans, “Look, we were drunk. It was stupid. I don’t know your last name. Thanks for taking care of Arendelle and all that crap. But it’s time to leave.”
- How does Elsa not know Olaf’s name?
When Anna finally reaches the ice castle and approaches Elsa, everyone’s new favorite snowman, Olaf enters the scene. Elsa is perplexed by this. “Olaf?” she wonders aloud, as if she had never seen him before. SHE MADE HIM. And if you’re going to tell me that this is the same snowman she made when they were kids and that’s why she doesn’t remember, why wasn’t Olaf talking in that original scene? Did he only develop speaking skills later in life, like a baby? This is all very confusing. Elsa birthed Olaf and should damn well know his name. What kind of sorceress is she?
- If Grand Pappy was taking a nap, how did he know about Elsa striking Anna’s heart?
For an old guy, Grand Pappy is quite mentally spry. He emerges from a snooze to tell Anna he can’t help her with the “ice in her heart put there by her sister.” How did he know about that? Did he just guess by looking at her? Or did he look in his crystal ball and was already aware? And if that’s the case, WHY WAS HE TAKING A NAP WHEN SOMEONE WAS DYING?! Grand Pappy needs to reassess his priorities. The guys sleeps way too much during crises.
- So, Arendelle welcomes back a Queen who abandoned the city under duress, practices sorcery, and left them all to die in a tundra?
I know it wasn’t intentional and all, but I’d consider moving to a neighboring community if my head of state was throwing ice at people and suddenly changed the temperature from 80 to 20 degrees while I was wearing a t-shirt and cargo shorts.
In closing, yes, I understand that it’s a movie. And yes, that doesn’t change things.
Does anyone else have a kid’s movie with questionable storyline decisions that bug you? I want to hear them! Add your comment below, tweet me here or email me at email@example.com.
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american psycho, angry birds, anna, christian bale, Disney, frozen, ke$ha, olaf, parenting, queen elsa | Categories:
Fun, Parenting, The Parents Perspective
Thursday, August 7th, 2014
Even though I’m the mom of two girls, I find myself shopping in the “boys’” aisles an awful lot. And that’s because it seems like most of the cooler toys and t-shirts (at least according to my girls) show up in that section. First it was Thomas the Tank Engine, then Star Wars, dinosaurs and robotics components.
It’s disheartening in this day and age that companies still cling to these old-school beliefs that all girls like pink sparkly princesses, and all boys want dinosaurs and sports. That’s what got Lands End in trouble earlier this month, as a mom started a campaign against the hearts-and-flowers motifs on girls shirts, for more realistic depictions of science. (I may just have to pick up one of the solar systems shirts for my science-loving youngest.) Lego finally decided to throw us a bone by offering girl scientist figures, after making loads of money off the pink-and-pretty Lego Friends, who seem to spend an awful lot of time on fashion, cuddly animals and talent shows. And Disney seems to have actually taken their latest acquisition, Star Wars, back to the stone ages, by stocking a single piece of Princess Leia merchandise—an “action” figure of her dressed in the revealing slave costume.
But I feel even worse for the boys who don’t fit into the trucks-and-sports mode. Because it’s a lot harder to make things from the girls’ side of the aisle, where there’s a plethora of pink and sparkly, work for a boy. On Lands End’s Facebook announcement of their science shirts for girls you could see a whole slew of comments from moms of boys, requesting shirts with “non-threatening animals” and hearts and flowers for their not-so-stereotypical boys.
Of course, there are some ways to circumvent the marketing powers that be. Etsy and other internet retailers seem to be built on people making more gender-neutral crafts that kids that fall outside the stereotype might actually love.
Maybe we need to get the marketers to make it easier for all kids to find their passions—whether it’s a girl who loves robots, or a boy who loves horses.
Want to know if your kid’s destined to be a scientist, a chef, or President? Try our future career quiz.
Image: Courtesy of Lego
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companies, Disney, gender stereotypes, lands end, lego, lisa milbrand, parenting style, star wars, the parents perspective, thomas the tank engine | Categories:
Big Kids, News, Parenting
Tuesday, March 11th, 2014
I live in a slightly out-of-the-culture neighborhood of Brooklyn, where mothers of baby girls shun pink and boys wear their hair fairly long, and sometimes I feel surrounded by princess-haters, who think that the Disney Princesses are trying to put all of our kids into a narrow box. I have lost count of the number of friends who have said they will never sanction Disney princesses in their home. They usually lose that battle anyway.
I can’t speak authoritatively about girls trying on extreme gender roles, because I am no child-development expert. But my beat here at Parents and American Baby includes toys, and I know when a little girl reaches 2 or 3 she usually wants a princess doll, or a costume dress, or a plastic pony with a long pink tail. I don’t know why, but I can tell you the want is real and seems primal.
My daughter, Grace, went on a loopy-doopy princess bender from ages 2 through 4. She dressed as Cinderella as she learned to climb the monkey bars and wore her Belle dress through the supermarket. It hurt no one, and I would argue particularly did not hurt her. She outgrew wearing costumes before elementary school, as I knew she would, but retained some lessons from “the ladies.” She knew that Ariel should have talked to her Dada before making that crazy deal to get human legs, and that Jasmine needed some street smarts. She understood Cinderella’s weary patience and Belle’s determination to block out haters. The new movie Frozen (which we’ve seen twice!) particularly has great themes, as Sheryl Sandberg points out.
Last fall we visited Belle in Fantasyland and Grace, now 11, studied her from a distance, judging her acting ability. (“She gets the voice right…”) I can’t get my tween to put on a dress, let alone a frilly one. She eyes Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, which honestly makes me more nervous than her watching of Snow White ever did.
The eloquent “Reaching My Autistic Son Through Disney” piece that ran in the New York Times resonates with me in that it points out how Disney stories are tales as old as time. The characters are acting out ancient dilemmas: How do you learn to trust your instinct? When should you do what you want to do, and when should you do what is expected of you? How do you find your place in the world? Not to overstate things too much, but trying to block kids from learning the princesses stories is to shut off a huge wealth of literature, history, and culture. And I can’t help but notice that no one fusses at my son about Tarzan’s body or the fact that Mowgli is so dang skinny.
I am not saying you need to welcome the ladies into your home so much as I’m saying: Calm down about them. They’re characters, and if you pay more attention to their character development instead of their shape, they have a lot to teach.
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Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
By Warren Hynes
Warren Hynes is a teacher and freelance writer. This post originally appeared on his blog, The Pitch: Baseball & Life.
For the past 12 years, I’ve found it fascinating to be a father to daughters. My two girls have brought me on an eye-opening cultural journey that has covered Elmo and Dora, Disney princess dresses, American Girl dolls, pretend-school lessons, pet guinea pigs, and performances of Wicked both on Broadway and in our living room. Lately, their activity has focused on some songs from the soundtrack to Disney’s latest animated feature, Frozen – the album that stands behind only Bruce Springsteen’s new record among the best-selling LPs in the nation. The songs, which sound more Broadway-ready than the typical multiplex fare, are bolstered by the voice of Idina Menzel, the actress who originated the role of Elphaba in Wicked and Maureen in Rent.
In our home, the girls have been blasting the Frozen songs from our little Bose speakers and lip-synching their way through the whole show. In the car, even with no music on, they’ll practice certain lines together. They’ve seen the movie twice, and are clamoring for thirds. When our youngest turned nine three weeks ago, she asked for a cake in the shape of the film’s snowman character.
Now I’m no cheerleader of Disney’s traditional portrayal of young female characters. The funny thing about this movie, though, is that even though all of the typical princess set pieces are there – the castle, the gowns, the big eyelashes, the handsome love interest – this film is ultimately about none of those things. It’s about two sisters, and their overriding love for each other. It’s about how far you’ll go to protect and save the best friend you have in the world. In our house, that’s a story worth some attention.
As my girls sing along to the film’s song “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” we hear the story of a younger sister who is being pushed away by her older sister, and can’t understand the reason for it: “We used to be best buddies / And now we’re not / I wish you would tell me why.” The younger sister asks once more for some play time, but after being told to go away, she hangs her head and sings, “Okay, bye.” As I hear my girls singing this together, I recognize that we’re getting close to the time when this exact scenario will play out in our home. Katie is 12, and she’s spending more and more time in her room trying on makeup, watching YouTube videos and, yes, texting. At nine, Chelsea is more interested in playing with her older sister than in spending time alone in her room. More often than not, Katie still plays with Chelsea. But those moments of rejection are nearing, like the gathering of dusk before night falls.
When it comes to music, I find it incredibly annoying to hear the same song over and over. But as my girls sing the Frozen tunes together countless times – and, to be honest, they’ve got a third singer in their group in the form of my wife – I can’t help but feel some relief amid the repetition. Because it seems that Katie and Chelsea have found something that transcends age differences and hormonal swings. They share a love for music and performance, and that love may connect them when other things do not. My brother and I are three years apart, just like my girls are. As kids, we had our stretch of time when I needed my space from him. But we always had our sports, be it a Yankees game on the TV or a 1-on-1 basketball game in the backyard. Even when we shared few words, there was still plenty of communication in the form of a last-second jumper on the patio, or a Dave Winfield home run on the basement TV.
My brother turns 40 in two weeks; I just turned 43. We talk about a lot of things now, as adult siblings do. But we still have a soft spot for the sports stuff. Years from now, I can see Katie and Chelsea spending an afternoon together, perhaps at one of their apartments, or maybe out shopping. There comes a point when they turn on some music. For fun, they click on the Frozen album. They smile, and start singing. Together.
We only have each other / It’s just you and me / What are we gonna do? / Do you wanna build a snowman?
Image courtesy of Disney.
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